Council keen to push ahead with Waltham Forest young offenders scheme

A scheme to let children “make amends” for alleged crimes outside of court is being “blocked” by the police, a Waltham Forest youth director has claimed.

The goal of the scheme is to reduce the disproportionately high number of young black boys entering London’s criminal justice system.

Earlier this month, Waltham Forest councillors heard the Met wants to wait for the results of a pilot scheme in north west London, not due to finish until 2024.

However, the council’s director of early help Daniel Phelps said youth offending is a “day to day” challenge for his team and it is “not satisfactory” to wait this long.

On November 10, he told the children and families scrutiny committee that the suggested scheme would allow young people the opportunity for “an out-of-course disposal, without having to enter a guilty plea”.

He explained: “That enables communities who traditionally have no trust or confidence in the criminal justice system to benefit from a non-prosecution route.

“It also gives confidence to the criminal justice system that these people in particular are in a restorative programme, where they can make amends for the harm caused.

“We can do something about the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, with more black boys in the system, which comes at the point of arrest.”

Phelps said there is a “racial disparity” in the criminal justice system that the Metropolitan Police find “very difficult” to explain.

A pilot scheme called Turning Point has been running in north west London since 2018, offering low-level offenders the chance to address the cause of their offending and making amends with their victim.

Commenting on Turning Point in 2018, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said similar schemes in Durham and the West Midlands have “shown the potential” to reduce the harm of crime and reoffending.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said it is not correct that the east London scheme has been blocked.

They added: “The MPS is not opposed to developing deferred prosecution models and is currently piloting such a scheme under the Ministry of Justice’s “Chance to Change” programme.

“In respect of the Waltham Forest proposal, there were a number of areas for which further information is required.”


Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter